TURYN – Cheerful, melodic recording of the Ukrainian band Kalush Orchestra for Eurovision this month was written as a tribute to the memory of the frontman’s mother.
After the Russian invasion of Ukraine, it became the anthem of the war-torn homeland.
“Stefania” is the most viewed song on YouTube among the 35 national contests that will take part in next year’s Eurovision Song Contest in the industrial city of Turin in northern Italy. While some speculators and data analysts have imposed victory on others, the Kalush Orchestra song is fast becoming a sentimental favorite.
“I will always find my way home, even if all the roads are destroyed,” Kalush Orchestra frontman Oleg Psyuk wrote in Stephanie.
The lyrics have become more poignant as Russian rockets hit Ukrainian towns and villages, forcing more than 11 million to leave the country.
“Indeed, some things here were written long before the war and were dedicated to my mother,” Psyuk told the Associated Press at his hotel in Turin, wearing a bright hat that makes it instantly recognizable to all who broadcast. “Stephanie”.
“After it all started with war and hostilities, it gained additional meaning, and many people began to see it as their mother, Ukraine, in the sense of the country. It has become very close to the hearts of many people in Ukraine, ”he said.
Mixing traditional Ukrainian folk music with hip-hop, the Kaluga orchestra’s performance at Eurovision will have an additional political message, presenting the uniqueness of Ukrainian culture amid a belligerent statement by Russian President Vladimir Putin that the former Soviet republic has always been part of Russia.
“We ourselves show that Ukrainian culture and the Ukrainian ethnic code exist,” Psuik said. “Our goal is to make Ukrainian music popular not only in Ukraine, but in the whole of Europe. And Eurovision is the best venue for that. “
“Stephanie” includes old Ukrainian melodies and unique musical sounds from a primitive, difficult-to-play wooden wind instrument, performed by vocalist Timofey Muzychuk.
The band members mix break dance with Ukrainian folk dance Hopak performed energetically with rap interludes by Psyuk. The costumes are embroidered with Cossack shirts and vests mixed with modern street clothes.
Psyuk and five members of the group, all men between the ages of 21 and 35, received special permission from the Ukrainian authorities to travel to Turin to participate in Eurovision, travel by land to Poland, and then fly to Italy. One original member of the group remained to fight.
The 27-year-old Psyuk left behind a network of volunteers he organized over the two days of the war to help provide logistical assistance to people across Ukraine seeking asylum or transportation.
Everyone will return to Ukraine when the song contest ends.
“We feel a great responsibility,” Psyuk said. “It is very important for us to be as useful as possible for the country. We want to represent our country with dignity. “
The Kaluga Orchestra is more than just a musical group. This is a cultural project that includes folklorists and purposefully combines hip-hop with traditional Ukrainian music, dances and costumes, some of which have long been forgotten, says Psyuk.
The 6-month project is named after Kalush, the hometown of Psyuk, located in the Carpathians, south of the western city of Lviv. This is the evolution of the original Kaluga hip-hop group, which Psyuk also led.
After the Russian invasion of Ukraine on February 24, Russia’s participation in Eurovision was expelled from the contest, which, according to the organizers, was aimed at preventing politics from falling into a very popular event, which was watched by 183 million people last year.
Psyuk said Russia’s deviation from Eurovision, as well as other cultural and sporting events, could send Russians “who may say they don’t fully understand the situation … which is why the whole world, Europe, is banning them.”
Ukraine first joined Eurovision 19 years ago. Since then, she has won twice, both times with songs performed predominantly in Ukrainian: Ruslana in 2004 and Jamala in 2016.
Psuik connects the success of Ukraine with the “special nature of our music.”
“I really hope that after we perform it at Eurovision, Ukrainian music will become even more popular and heard,” Psyuk said.
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